At least 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away every year in America. They’re choking our landfills and take 30 to 40 years to decompose (U.S. Department of the Interior)
For that reason alone it’s worth buying a durable pair of shoes.
Buying durable goods isn’t just about owner satisfaction or luxury. It’s about social responsibility.
I spent the last week researching for this article and I don’t think it’s possible to claim that any one sneaker is “the most durable sneaker ever.” There are just too many variables. However, it is possible to drill the list down to some very safe bets. These are them.
Some of the Longest Lasting Sneakers are:
(In no particular order)
- Addidas Sambas: Mens / Womens
- New Balance 574 Series: Mens / Womens
- Vans Old Skool Pros: Unisex
- Asics Gel Nimbus Series: Mens / Womens
- New Balance 990 Series(American made version): Mens / Womens
- Wolverine 1000 Mile Original Sneaker: Mens / Womens
- Merrell Moab Low-Cut Hikers Series Mens / Womens
- Chrome Industries Kursks
How to Choose the Most Durable Sneakers
- When researching online, don’t Google: ” ‘sneaker name’ review”: There are just way too many “reviewers” out there who will tell you anything to get into your wallet via affiliate commisions. You’re much better off visiting forums like Reddit. Try searching the subreddits: Sneakers or Buy It For Life. It’s where ordinary people post unsponsored/unfiltered perspectives on products.
- A Durable Reputation is Golden. Obviously, gaining an industry reputation for qualityisn’t won overnight(think Toyota) and you’ll find that many forums do a great job of sifting the very best to the top quickly.
- Be prepared to compromise a bit on style and taste. Don’t expect a smorgasbord of super trendy choices. In the sneaker world, the most durable choices aren’t on the leading edge of fashion. They’re classic, time-tested designs that just work.
- Don’t ignore alternate categories. For example, many low-cut hiking shoes are basically ruggedized sneakers. They feature upgrades like waterproof leather, gortex linings and Vibram soles while still pulling off the sneaker look.
- Don’t forget to inspect the inside. Put your hand inside the shoe and feel for lumps, folds, protruding seams or dried glue. Visually inspect for loose back-stitching and, If you can, pull the insole out and inspect under it.
- Carefully scrutinize where the sole meets the upper. Any visibly dried glue spilling from the seam is a sign of poor quality. Press the nose of the sneaker, if the rubber toe guard separates slightly walk away.
- Lean toward leather components/construction: Shoes have been made primarily with leather for thousands of years…they might just be onto something there.
- In general, stay away from canvas uppers unless they are high denier weaves.
- Higher pricing does not guarantee quality. A very durable sneaker rarely costs more than $150 . Any more and you’re probably just paying for branding hype. You’d be surprised how little it can cost to get a durable sneaker.
The Short List of Durable Sneakers
Note: While there are many other durable choices out there, the sneakers below have outstanding reputations as well as widespread independent social proof.
So, In no particular order:
Sambas are truly iconic shoes. They were designed in the 50’s for off-season in-door soccer and quickly became a legends. Sambas are a great example of a simple durable shoe that’s very, very affordable.
- available with Full Grain Leather Uppers
- Suede overlay for added durability
- Foam cushioned midsole
- 70 years of die-hard fans
New Balance 574 Series
While the NB 574s don’t have the history that the Sambas do, you’re parents probably owned a pair in the 80’s. Back then they called sneakers “tennis shoes.” My dad had a brown pair. The 574s are, by far, New Balance’s most iconic sneaker. Its silhouette is pretty much timeless. Heathcare professionals, in particular, love them for the comfort they afford over long hospital shifts.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the style, but dang they’re comfy and they last! How else could they even exist if there weren’t convinced fanatics all over the world devoted to their reliability.
- Signature ENCAP midsole cushion for lightweight comfort
- Suede & Mesh upper
- Also available in leather
Vans Old Skool Pros:
A good pair of skate shoes are designed to take a heck of beating. Van’s Old Skool Pros are among the toughest. You don’t need to be a skater to appreciate their longevity. Since they are overbuilt they will last a long time as an everyday sneaker.
Price-check the Old Skool Pros on Amazon
- Canvas and suede uppers
- Single Wrap foxing tape(Thats the rubber part that forms the sidewall of the outsole.
- Sock liner for a light cushion
- DURACAP reinforcement rubber underlays in high wear areas for added durability
Asics Gel Nimbus Series
The Nimbus line, as the name suggests, is pretty darn close to what it would feel like to run on clouds.
Asics is a heavy weight in running niche. Not surprisingly, the Nimbus series has become their flagship line with many dedicated fans.
The higher the Nimbus “number” the newer the model year. (Nimbus 20 as of publishing)
The Nimbus 20 is a serious long distance runner and its solid construction also makes an extremely durable low impact sneaker.
Anecdotally some runners have punished these sneaks well over 1000 miles worth of concrete. Not bad at all.
- Front and mid-sole Rear Gel cushion
- Heal clutch design which offers a solid fit with less slippage
- Very breathable mesh upper
- Resilient Flyte Foam midsole that resists permanent compression
- Huge variety of sizes, colours and widths.
New Balance 990 Series- American Made :
While the 574s(tennis) are New Balance’s most iconic sneaker, the 990s are, in fact, their longest lasting flagship offering(since 1982). It could be argued that the New Balance 990s became the benchmark of modern runners.
Similar to the Asics Gel Nimbus, the 990s are serious long distance workhorses. Make sure to get the upgraded American versions of the 990s with upgraded premium Nubuck uppers for extra durability.
The price point is higher than the Asics though.
- Durable nubuck leather upper
- ENCAP midsole core of cushioning EVA with a tough polyurethane rim for more support and durability.
- Very high tread-life
Wolverine 1000 Mile Original Sneakers
Basically these are Converse Chucks on steroids.
The price will sting for these all-leather retro kicks because they’re hand made in the USA from durable full-grain leather.
You can get the Thousand Mile sneakers a little cheaper if you opt for the premium English suede versions but I don’t recommend it..since it’s too hard to keep clean.
Wolverine’s 1000 Mile boots are famous for lasting forever. These are their counterpart for folks looking for indestructible sneakers.
Simply put, there are no other retro sneakers that will outlast these.
The 1000 Mile sneakers will make your Converse wearing friends look like chumps. I’m just not sure if they’re worth almost $300 bucks to me..but hey, you decide. Maybe you have deeper pockets.
- Weston full-grain cowhide, tanned in Maine
- Available in Low and Mid, Leather and Suede
- Super-durable Vibram Outsole
- Waxed cotton laces, extra wax so they won’t come untied
- Solid brass eyelets
Merrell Moab Low-Cut Hikers Series
Yes, they are hikers, but some low-cut versions of the Moabs can pull double duty as sneakers. Merrells have a lot of respect in the hiking community for producing a super-tough product.
A key feature found on most Merrells are their Vibram soles which are the gold-standard found on the most durable footwear on earth.
The most legendary boots out there have Vibram soles.
So, if you’re looking for the longest lasting sneakers the Moab series are a very solid alternative.
Features: Merrell Moab FST 2
- Nubuck leather and mesh upper
- M Select™ FRESH antimicrobial agents reduces shoe odor
- Kinetic Fit™ BASE insole is contoured like your foot and provides flexible support
- Molded nylon arch shank
- Air Cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
- Vibram® MegaGrip® soles delivering good traction and extreme durability.
- 5 mm lugs
Chrome Industries Kursks
Last but not least the Chrome Kursks are seriously durable kicks. Don’t be fooled by their simplistic look.
The Kurks are purpose-built as biking sneakers and they are darn tough. Chrome industries is already known for their super-durable messenger bags.
So, while these things are designed for cyclists, plenty of reviewers find them great as casual sneakers.
You can get more details on the Kursks over at Chrome Industries.
- Military grade 1050d ballistic nylon upper (25 x stronger than canvas)
- Rubber toe and heal armour
- Fiberglass-reinforced nylon shank
Bonus: How to Make Your New Sneakers Last Even Longer
- Rotate Between Two Pairs for a much longer life. In heavy usage conditions this technique can make two rotated pairs of sneakers last longer than 3 or 4 individual ones replaced one after the other. Its a neat strategy that high mileage runners/hikers like to use. Giving your sneaks a rest allows them to completely dry out(sweat) which is a major contributor to premature wear & tear.
- If they get wet, don’t tumble dry them or use a blow dryer. Heat is very, very bad for glued joints. I once had a brand new pair Hiking shoes(Nikes) unglue in the original box because they were stored in excessive heat(Africa). Seriously, The glue just let go! So don’t subject your sneakers to a dryer. Solution: Wick away the moisture by stuffing your sneaks with crumpled newspaper or paper towel and replacing every few hours as needed. Heat drying your sneakers is very hard on glued joints
- Dry Clean only. No Washing Machines!A deep soaking does nothing good for the internal architecture or arch support. Instead, either dry clean or get a decent foaming shoe cleanser like this one that the folks on Reddit seem pleased with.
- Untie your Shoes. I know its easier to just step on your heal and yank of your kicks, but this habit alone will accumulate a lot of extra wear, deform and stretch your sneaks prematurely.
- Use your Sneakers for one activity: Its like elementary school. Each kid has inside shoes and outside shoes. So if you’re going to the gym, use different shoes to get there then switch into them.
- Shoe Glue: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you notice any lifting or separations nab it early with some Shoe Goo. Tip: “You can spread the Shoe Goo smooth using an ice cube. Won’t stick to the ice and satisfies your perfectionist side.” -Narness from the Subreddit:sneakers
- Lose Weight: If you can spare a few pounds your sneakers reward you by lasting longer. It’s just plain physics. Of course, it would be kinda weird if that were your only motivation to lose weight…just sayin’.
If you’re in the market for other durable footwear, check my article on The 6 Longest lasting flip flop brands